photo Mark Upward
an early start
Saturday 21st Sept.
As I cycled past the Cat and Dog Home the sun came up. It was about 6.56 and as you know I am not THAT keen on an early start. I had been swithering between this 10k trail race and a boozy Carlops to Hillend Beano with Carnethies. I let fate choose: my front tyre had gone flat with a double thorn spike from a hawthorn twig the day before. I had fixed it back on the cycle path but suspected it might still go down overnight. If it did there was no way I'd make the 7.15am PRC coach to Arrochar. I'd be off swigging alcohol in the Pentlands.
Fate chose Arrochar. My tyre stayed hard for 24hrs but weirdly then went flat for the start of the working week. Fate made the right choice. I had been doing quite decent mileage but not at pace. The previous Wednesday I spent myself at club training, trying to keep up with Donald. Both of us ran a little harder than we might have chosen to and my legs were tight and stiff for several days following that 40 minutes of tarmac tempo madness. (They were much less painful after the race, probably due to much of it being on trails.)
The coach was really comfortable and I fell asleep listening to my MP3 player, catching the hour I missed getting up early. I woke, rinsed with Lidl brand Red Bull (Kong Strong!) then changed into a Porty vest and warmed up in the beautiful surroundings of Arrochar - Loch Long and the hills behind looking spectacular.
Just by coincidence Neil and Anna and young Kit were there holidaying. We had a chat and it was great to catch up immediately before the race started. I made sure to do a few strides as it takes longer to get up to speed these days. There was a brief and witty speech from the organiser then we were off. The results show 113 finishers which seems about right, so fairly small and not that strong a field. I saw Keith H from CAAC and reckoned it would be between himself and Johnny with David possibly in the mix.
There was a bit of flat and heading North-ish before the route turns and just before the 1 mile mark begins a solid mile of climbing while heading down South. The tarmac turned to wide dirt forestry trails between trees. It would be really pleasant if we weren't racing. First mile 6.21, second and slowest of the 6 was 7.06.
route profile and why mile 2 was slowest!
Also why there wasn't much in the way of photos. Despite the heart-attack hill I was actually really enjoying things. I think there were about 4 runners ahead with Johnny and David leading the way, which I was pleased to see. The big surprise was Keith, who was either just ahead or just behind myself. I didn't ask but assumed he was returning after an injury or had some reason to be going this pace. Anyway it was making me look fantastic! And just the weather and scenery were so inspiring. I reckon with surroundings like this I could almost run as fast as say (flat and uninspiring) Grangemouth 10k. I was really enjoying it, or would be as soon as that hill levelled off.
It topped out just before mile 2 (mile 3 fastest in 6.04) and I knew the general profile from here was downhill or flat, with a couple of bumps on the way. On the steeper descents I put some distance between myself and Keith; on the uphills, he would go past. So much so, that when the trail narrowed to single-track and descended, he pulled off to the side and let me past. I returned the gesture as we then went uphill on similar ground and we both acknowledged each other in a very friendly and gentlemanly way.
closing down the guy ahead
Thanks to all those out marshalling and holding cups of water. There were far more marshals than required although it was great to know every junction and possible wrong turn was clearly marked or marshalled. We were going too fast for water. Don't really need it over a 40min race and it could cause more problems going down the wrong way, than it helps.
There were some great winding narrow paths at the far end of the trails descending towards Ardgartan. Technical enough that I was glad of the grip on the soles of my Speedgoat Evos. I knew the last 2 miles were on pavements so didn't push too much. But made sure I kept in touch with Keith who was running down the guy ahead. I caught him shortly after we hit the pavement and he didn't fight for the place. I was surprised to see David on the long straights, a safe distance ahead. I only found out later he had had a bit of a frustrating stand at the road crossing until the marshals allowed him across. I hoped he had enough to keep ahead of Keith. I thought he would and so it turned out to be. Although we all finished within the same minute.
The long straight road went on for ages. Even with an uphill bump I managed 6.09 and 6.22 min/miles for the last 2. However I was very glad to see the 400m and then 200m to go as we got to the head of the loch. Not a moment too soon, though I was still appreciating the scenery and weather and taking the odd photo. A grassy field to finish and I tried not to lower my pace as I really wanted to go under 40mins. I had been looking at my watch and reckoned it would be very close to 40 and felt it would be worth killing myself to go under; versus coasting and going over. Consequently when I did cross the line on the right side (39.55 hurray!) I had worked so hard I was literally frothing at the mouth and Neil gave me a wet wipe (all parents of young children carry them) to mop my face.
It took a while to return to feeling normal. However it was a delightful setting and there was lots of banter with happy racers. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it and recognised it was a great mix of undulating trails then back along the flatter road for a fast finish. Excellent medals and a goody bag that would shame most contemporary large city 10ks. And some excellent fudge, water and stuff at the end to help with the recovery. Though that was nothing by comparison to the tables of cakes and homebakes in the hall after we had changed. No showers might be the only complaint, but the rest of the day was perfect.
The prize giving was extraordinary. The prizes were really generous although they strangely didn't go as far as third place which is a little unconventional. Just first and second. They gave me (fourth overall) a bottle of Glenfiddich and an engraved cut glass glass to put it in, for first m50. AND a voucher for a £40 bar meal in the local hotel. There was an embarrassment of prizes which were still really impressive even down to the many spot prizes. (A case of ale, 2 bottles of wine etc.) Johnny was also given first m40 and so came away with 2 bottles of whisky, a trophy and vouchers for loads of stuff.
Top marks to the organisers. A really good run and well worth the journey to this lovely corner of the world. Mind you we got perfect weather for it. Made me wish there had been enough time to climb the Cobbler while there. It's been on my list of things to do for quite some time. Thanks to Willie and was it Allan who originally organised the coach there. What a great day out!